Nursing center staff, residents receive COVID vaccines

Landmark of Danville Rehabilitation and Nursing Center residents and staff got their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday. Walgreens brought 140 vaccinations of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine into the facility for staff and residents, handling logistics of distribution like storage and cooling.

“This is the first time in our history we’ve ever vaccinated an entire population of residents for a pandemic,” said Stephanie Johnson, nursing director for the facility.

The second dose of the vaccine will be administered 21 days after the first dosage was given. For those at the facility who did not receive the vaccination on Wednesday, they can get their first dose during the second round and get their second dosage in February.

Johnson said residents and staff were excited for the vaccinations. The facility was busy Wednesday, with residents lined up in wheelchairs to receive their vaccinations and staff going to rooms with bedridden residents to administer their vaccines.

Johnson said all but two of the 77 residents in the center when the pandemic began have contracted COVID-19 at some point. It now has 59 who have recovered, with 16 having died. Out of 80 staff members, 19 have contracted the disease, all of whom have recovered. On Wednesday, Johnson said there are no active cases at the facility, and it is now a “green zone.” Receiving the vaccine was strongly encouraged but not required.

The National Guard has helped the facility clean and disinfect, move residents and their belongings, install new hand sanitizer stations, and set up tables. Johnson said when there were active cases of COVID-19 at the facility, those who tested positive were kept separate and sealed off from those who hadn’t, and there is COVID-19 testing twice a week: rapid testing on Mondays and PCR testing with a laboratory every Thursday.

Johnson said when it comes to the staff, it’s not easy to work 12-hour shifts while wearing an N95 mask, but they have been cleaning everything they can and wearing their PPE, and no matter what shift they work, they show up for testing.

“Every day they come in here renewed and really trying to fight the virus and putting their face shields on, putting their N95s on, putting their gowns on, and doing everything that they can to make sure that this virus doesn’t spread,” she said.

In case there was any reaction, such as an allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine, Walgreens representatives had EpiPens, and residents were monitored after vaccinations. Johnson said residents realized there are unknowns when it comes to the virus and the vaccine, but said, “They understand and trust the nursing staff to monitor them.”

Also, she said there is the understanding that the way vaccines work is after they are administered there may be mild symptoms, like a mild headache, low-grade fever, some chills, or muscle aches. She said that’s how people know their bodies are reacting and working with the vaccine. The vaccine was meant to improve the experience at Landmark and help keep people safe, she said.

“We wanted to provide the best possible, safest environment for the residents and keep them healthy,” she said. “They are our most vulnerable population, and they are the most at-risk, and we have to mitigate that risk, and this is the first step.”